The Dog Days for Theater. Sondheim, Louis Armstrong Musicals Sneak Peeks. Audra McDonald=Judy Garland? #Stageworthy News

The end of August, traditionally the dog days of summer, this year brings news of a British movie theater chain allowing dogs to accompany humans at select showings.

Would this work for legitimate theater? It already does. The photograph above is of a  group of service dogs attending a “relaxed” theatrical performance of the musical “Billy Elliot” at the Stratford Festival in 2019. Theaters in Texas and California have welcomed regular dogs in the past, although it always seems to be when there’s a new movie featuring dogs.

Meanwhile, stage managers and their friends are gathering this afternoon starting at 4 p.m. in Central Park (across the path from The Delacorte Theatre’s Gate 5)  to celebrate A Dog Day of Summer.

“You don’t have to have a dog to join us,” says the notice from the NY Metro Region of the Stage Managers Association, “but it you do, bring them along!!”

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Rock and Roll Man

Book Reviews:

August Wilson: A Life

What turned high school drop-out Frederick August Kittel Jr. into the revered and consequential playwright August Wilson? 

That’s the question at the heart of “August Wilson: A Life” (Simon and Schuster, 544 pages), billed as the first major biography of the playwright. Author Patti Hartigan, a former arts journalist at the Boston Globe, attempts to answer in several ways — one of which feels especially relevant, even urgent. Full review

Handy timelines to August Wilson’s Century Cycle: 1. when he first wrote each play. 2. when it debuted on Broadway. 3. the year each is set.

Gays on Broadway

Ethan Mordden describes his book — not completely accurately – as a “chronological review of both the plays and the people that brought the world of homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, metrosexuals, and the sexually fluid to the American stage.”  Its nine chapters start with the 1910s and 1920s and progress decade by decade to “the present,” ending with Edward Albee, who died in 2016 at the age of 88….“Gays on Broadway” is at its best when it lingers on individual figures in twentieth century American theater; many of them are still famous, but the most intriguing of them are now obscure.

The Week in New York News and Views

COVID’s Comeback

“A late-summer wave of coronavirus infections has touched schools, workplaces and local government, as experts warned the public to brace for even more Covid-19 spread this fall and winter.” (NY Times) There are signs of it in the theater as well, with Sweeney Todd co-stars Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford both missing performances after testing positive for the coronavirus, and “abundance of caution” notices springing up again — i.e. “In an abundance of caution all post-show stage door activities at Shucked have been paused until further notice..”

A 28-year-old woman who killed 87-year-old Broadway singing coach  Barbara Maier Gustern by shoving her onto a Manhattan sidewalk has avoided a lengthy prison sentence by pleading guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday, and will instead serve eight years behind bars. (Associated Press) (I read this article hoping to find a reason for this “unprovoked, senseless attack,” but even the killer doesn’t seem to know.)

New York Magazine/Vulture theater critics Jackson McHenry and Sara Holdren preview the Fall season.

Sara Holdren: Honestly, this fall feels odd. In the past, we’d be swimming in season announcements at this point, and right now, the list still feels sparse — even on Broadway as well as Off…..

Jackson McHenry.: Yeah, weird vibes. Merrily We Roll Along is one of only a couple of things that feel like classic fall-season Broadway openings….The other show that fits that traditional fall starry, prestige-y vein is Purlie Victorious, which is both the first revival of Ossie Davis’s Jim Crow satire since its Broadway premiere in 1961 and Leslie Odom Jr.’s first time on Broadway since Hamilton

“Once Upon a One More Time” is closing on September 3 after 123 performances

“A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical” will add a fourth weekly matinee on Thursdays starting on September 6. Performances will now be at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays, in addition to evening performances on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Ben Platt and Noah Galvin’s mockumentary Theater Camp will be available for streaming on Hulu beginning September 14. On that date, the film will also become available for digital purchase via Apple TV, Prime Video, and more.

For New York City Center’s 30th anniversary #Encores series in 2024, all three productions will have two-week runs. (rather than the usual long weekend), and include ASL interpreted performances and student matinees. Once Upon a Mattress (1/24-2/4) Jelly’s Last Jam (2/21-3/3) Titanic (6/12-23)

Daniel Radcliffe as Charley Kringas, Jonathan Groff as Franklin Shepard, and Lindsay Mendez as Mary Flynn in the first day of rehearsals of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Sondheim/George Furth musical that begins performances at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre on September 19 (They still don’t have an official opening date?!)

James Monroe Iglehart (as Louis Armstrong, center), with (l-r): 
Khalifa White (Daisy Parker), Jennie Harney-Fleming (Lil Hardin), 
Ta’Rea Campbell (Lucille Wilson) and Brennyn Lark (Alpha Smith) during rehearsals in New York for “A Wonderful World, A New Musical about the Life and Loves of Louis Armstrong,” which will have a pre-Broadway run in New Orleans and Chicago in October.

Audra McDonald answers weird questions from Vanity Fair, eg.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? Judy Garland, but not for the reason you think. I identify with the insecurity she had as a performer. She once said something like “I always worry that this is the time they’ll figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing up there.” I feel that. Deep, deep, deep in my bones. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A body of water. I’m all emotion, so a body of water feels like the right expression of that. Probably a sea or an ocean. Definitely salt water. 

This Week’s “Theater” Video

Meryl Streep and Ashley Park perform an original song written by Sara Bareilles, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, “Look for the Light,” for Only Murders in the Building.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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